It’s really hard living in the city and believing that human beings can bring about the kind of living that God intended for us. Every day, I am faced with the reality of poverty and injustice on a social level. I talk with men and women who are homeless and do not have access to safe and dignified shelter. On any given night, I can walk outside the front door of my housing and witness young women being prostituted on the street corner. During my time in Bay Ridge, I have befriended a young man and his mother who frequent the park next door. Last week, the young man’s father died. Since then, his mother has struggled with everything from depression to a broken down car, with no one to help. In the wake of all evil and injustice, how can we live in a way that brings about heaven here on earth?
Every Thursday night here at CSM, we host a worship night for the teen groups that come in. During this time, I give a short message on the theme of Hope, Renewal, and Restoration. At the end of my message, I read a portion of Scripture from the book of 1 Corinthians. The entire chapter speaks about love, and that anything done without love is meaningless. I have come to believe that love is the daily answer to how we are to bring about renewal. In a world fractured by hate, greed, war, materialism, and selfishness, love provides the healing ingredient for what a renewed world looks like. Of all the ways that God intended human beings to interact with each other, love is at the core of it. When a human being shows love to another, there is a glimpse of what a perfect world would look like.
Last weekend, I went with some friends to hear the NYC Philharmonic Orchestra play in Prospect Park. In the middle of the concert, a young, post-college age girl sat down in the grass in front of me. After a little while, she reached into her bag and pulled out a half-full bottle of water and an apple. Before drinking her water, she turned around and motioned to me, offering her apple. I thought to myself, “What kind of person offers a complete stranger an apple in the middle of a park?” Not only that, but how crazy would I have to be to accept food from a random stranger in the middle of a park in NYC? But after a while, something occurred to me. What if I had actually been a little hungry? If anyone I knew had offered me the apple, I would have certainly accepted it. So why wouldn’t I have accepted it from her? All social expectations prohibited me from taking food from a stranger, but this girl was living outside of those expectations. This girl was embodying a lifestyle that said, “I’m going to treat others as though they were my friends.” What if we let the kingdom of heaven guide the way we look at others, instead of the way we’ve been conditioned by a fractured world? I can help but wonder how my life would change if I looked at everyone, not with distrust and judgment, but with kindness and love, as if they were a family member.
The point of this all is not to endorse taking food from strangers ever chance we get. It is a call to actually live on earth, how we think we might live in a kingdom of heaven. I think it would flip our world upside down.